Little more than a year since the release of their debut, Walls are showing signs of a strong instinctive nature to their writing. If the first album was all about affirming their new direction after departures from Allez Allez and Banjo Or Freakout respectively, Sam Willis and Alessio Nataliza are finding their feet with impressive surety.
A ‘coracle’ has a dictionary definition as a ‘small, lightweight boat’ – but although there is a sense of travel in the duo’s music, it is far from lightweight, and appears to have gained extra depth and body to its beats. Where their first album showed an acute awareness of how to use the influences of Krautrock and Brian Eno to creative effect, this one throws in a stronger sense of rhythm. At times it’s almost as if they have been listening to The Orb or Steve Hillage’s System 7 – a good thing you understand, for when the intro of a track like Il Tedesco starts to build the sense of a shift into a distant cousin of Toxygene is difficult to resist, even more so when its chugging rhythm develops.
With warm weather textures used Walls conjure up visions of dense blue sky and deserted beaches, and they do so by using a number of bits of studio trickery at their disposal. The most memorable track riff-wise is the first, Into Our Midst, its pastoral melodies circling round about as the two voices call across the stereo picture to each other. It is original, affirming and smile-inducing. That leads immediately into the most soothing track of the album, Heat Haze, which is just that – a barmy midsummer blast of warmth with softly hued guitar and reassuringly deep bass drum.
Having set out their stall, Walls proceed simply to enjoy themselves in dream-like textures and structured noodlings – most of which are musically focussed rather than being allowed to ramble. Alongside this the pure enjoyment comes simply from kicking back and enjoying the textures the pair have conjured from their studio. Raw Umber/Twilight and Vacant are two examples of this, the latter employing lovely, shimmering sounds to complement the bell-like sonorities that give it extra points of reference, before the focus blurs at the end and the music peters out. Meanwhile in Drunken Galleon the music is still, suspended on a high wire.
Coracle, then, is a more confident craft than the pair’s debut, which at half an hour long was essentially an extended EP. This sounds like it knows more about where it came from and where it is going – yet isn’t in a fuss to reach its destination by the quickest possible means. The scenic route is where it’s at – and there is plenty of that to enjoy on this illuminating record.